It's unlikely you'll ever be a guest at Bill Gates' house, but if you were, you'd witness what is perhaps the ultimate display of "smart house" technology. That's because the Microsoft founder's 66,000-square-foot home incorporates touch-sensitive pads in each room to control music, lighting, and climate. Guests can be outfitted with tiny electronic pins that tell the home's computer system who and where they are; the computer then adjusts individual room settings to the wearer's preferences.
Great, you say, but what does that have to do with me? After all, your house is probably less than a 20th the size of the Gates' abode. And try as you might (which is pretty darn hard), you simply can't shut off your teenage son's music from the living room.
Maybe not at the moment, but it's surprisingly simple to renovate or build a home that incorporates the latest in home tech (see "5 Great Wired Resources" on page 40). Who better to answer your questions than a dream-team of home technology experts: the best-known contractor in the U.S., Bob Vila, along with Bob Hetherington, editor of www.hometoys.com, the leading online home technology library and e-magazine.
First, Vila wants you to banish the commonly used term "smart house" from your vocabulary. "Eight years ago, we built a house in Malibu," remembers Vila, creator and host of the popular television show Bob Vila's Home Again. "With all the salt in the air, the 'smart' wiring turned out to be real dumb."